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How Dayton-area people are coping: ‘We’re all trying to figure out the new reality’

Gus Stathes, co-owner of The Barrel House at 417 E. Third St., pours a craft beer Sunday afternoon in downtown Dayton. Stathes said an extended forced shutdown due to the coronavirus could doom his business, although he sees why it might be necessary.
Gus Stathes, co-owner of The Barrel House at 417 E. Third St., pours a craft beer Sunday afternoon in downtown Dayton. Stathes said an extended forced shutdown due to the coronavirus could doom his business, although he sees why it might be necessary.

The threat of a COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is affecting everyday life for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans — and that impact became even more severe Sunday with Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement that dine-in restaurants and bars must cease those operations.

Like every other parent of a school-aged child in the state, Gus Stathes, co-owner of The Barrel House craft beer bar in downtown Dayton, was already scrambling to respond to last week’s order to shut down every school in Ohio. Then came Sunday’s bombshell regarding the state order to shut down bars and the dine-in portion of restaurants.

An extended forced shutdown due to the coronavirus could doom his business, Stathes said.

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“There is a very real possibility that The Barrel House would no longer exist,” Stathes said. “We do not have a mountain of cash, we don’t have investors. We do have employees that we need to take care of.”

But Stathes also said he understands why a shutdown might help slow the spread of the virus.

“I can’t argue that it’s not the right move — but it sucks,” he said.

Angela Worley has a 13-year-old at Stivers School for the Arts and is herself a substitute teacher at Dayton Public Schools.

“I have zero income right now,” she said. “I can’t go out and get a new job. This is devastating for me.”

Worley said parents she talks to are overwhelmed. They are suddenly trying to figure out child care. Some don’t have the technology at home for the remote learning the district has planned. Those that do are being asked to oversee their children’s education at home with no training about how to do so.

“They’re concerned about how they’re going to stay on top of their children’s homework,” Worley said.

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Meanwhile, parents are losing income because of cuts to hours or loss of customers at work. And they’re dealing with the same stress as everyone else about their family’s health because of the virus.

“It’s extremely frustrating, just trying to navigate it all. Trying to navigate life,” Worley said.

She worries most about the children whose families have fewer resources. She said teachers shed tears at the end of the day on Friday.

“We see these kids every day. During a normal circumstance they come to school hungry, and they’ll tell you the last time they ate was yesterday when they were at school,” Worley said. “It seems like the most vulnerable people are the ones who are suffering from this.”

Schools need help

Dayton Public Schools has announced that the district intends to continue providing free breakfast and lunch during the break. But it’s unclear how they are going to deliver the food to homes that don’t have transportation. They are asking for community volunteers to help with this effort.

DPS School Board President Mohammed Al-Hamdani said in an interview Sunday that an extended, forced closure would present numerous challenges for the district. For one, remote learning is no substitute to having kids in classrooms with teachers.

“Kids not going to school for a long period of time means they fall behind,” the board president said.

The students will miss out on more than academics. In addition to food, schools provide physical and mental health services, social interaction, structure and more.

“There’s a lot of families that depend on a whole lot of services from us, not just education,” Al-Hamdani said.

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The school district is still trying to find ways to deliver these services.

“We’re all trying to figure out the new reality in America,” he said.

Meanwhile some local restaurants are offering free food for children. Area non-profits are trying to find ways to help families.

“After the tornadoes, we really mobilized and supported each other,” Worley said. “I think this is going to provide even more opportunities for us to help each other out the best we can.”

Getting outside

Members of Boy Scout Troop 101 walked along the bicycle trail near the University of Dayton Sunday afternoon picking up trash. They originally had a campout planned for this weekend, but that was deemed to “unhygienic,” according to Alex Tucker, a freshman at Oakwood High School and scout patrol leader.

The group decided picking up trash would allow them to get out of the house, socialize and still keep a safe distance from one another.

“We can still be out doing things and contributing,” said Bryan Chodkowski, a parent and scout committee chair who accompanied the troop.